Two Buddhist monks, a junior and a senior, were traveling together and approached a very strong river they needed to cross. Before they made their trek, a beautiful young woman approached the men and asked if they could help her cross. The monks looked at one another, as they had taken a vow to never touch a woman. To the young monk’s surprise, the older monk turned to the woman, picked her up and carried her across the river. Following the incident, the monks walked along in silence. Hours passed, and the young monk was still wrestling with what had happened, and couldn’t believe what the old monk did. Finally, he asked his elder, “Brother, we made a vow to never touch a woman. Why did you carry that woman on your shoulders, then?”. The senior monk paused a moment, and then asked the young monk, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
With holidays upon us, time spent with our family can bring up many feelings. No matter how many years’ pass, it seems that when together, memories can return with a vengeance and through them we can become angry, bitter, and resentful. This is especially true when it comes to our parents. We think about what our parents did and did not do, and hold on to the memories that seem to get darker the older we get. A therapist once asked his client who was working through parental issues, if his past memories were recorded on camera, would they be exactly as they were remembered? The client realized that they probably weren’t. The truth is, negative feelings attached to memories can taint our perspective and sometimes the memory is more painful than the moment itself. And as in the fable mentioned above, we discover that the only one on the path that is disturbed was the one holding on to the past.
Truth be told, parenthood is a tricky job. It is easier to flawlessly send a man to the moon then flawlessly raise a child, yet it is flawed human beings that are given the most important responsibility on earth. So, should we be surprised with our parent’s mistakes? Is it worth all the negative energy to stay fixated on our childhood past? In the end, our happiness will depend on our choice to forgive our parents and let go of our childhood. Who knows? Maybe your children will return the favor someday.
Wendy Rhodes, MA, LPCC (720) 316-5746